Amul to bring smile back to vanilla farmers
Amul ice-creams may bring the smile back on the face of vanilla farmers in Kerala as its producer, the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), has decided to use natural vanilla to flavour its products in place of synthetic ones.
For procuring vanilla, GCMMF, which markets dairy products under brand name Amul, has entered into an agreement with Vanilla India Producer Company Limited (Vanilco), based in Kochi.
"Under the agreement, Vanilco will supply to Amul 20 tonnes of blended vanilla extract a year. We have already supplied six tonnes. It has 40 percent of the country's ice-cream market," Vanilco managing director and chief executive officer Paul Jose told IANS.
Vanilco is a company formed by vanilla growers. "We have 2,500 shareholders. The shareholders are individual farmers and also associations formed by farmers," said Jose.
The vanilla farmers in Kerala have been in dire straits for last four years as no agency was procuring vanilla beans.
"In 2003, the prize of vanilla was Rs.23,000 per kilogram. In 2004, the price fell below Rs.100 and nobody was there to procure vanilla. There are farmers who made millions with vanilla and there are many more who lost heavily," he added.
As the price plummeted, most Kerala farmers abandoned the crop, which they had raised spending huge amounts.
On Vanilco's procurement plan, Jose said the company at present has enough stock to meet the requirements for a year.
"The procurement will start next season. We hope we will get enough vanilla beans. The news of procurement may attract farmers to attend to the crop again," he said.
Around 100 kilograms of raw vanilla beans are required to make one kilogram of 'blended extract'.
Last season, Vanilco procured the beans for Rs.65 a kilogram. Jose said the price may move up to at least Rs.100 in two years at a conservative estimate.
"It was during a meeting last November in Delhi, attended by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar that Amul managing director B.M. Vyas promised us that they will use natural vanilla in ice creams. We expect Mother Dairy also to follow suit," said Paul.
Vanilco has its processing unit at Muvattupuzha, 42 km northeast of Kochi.
The company is the sole producer of vanilla products in the country and is using the technology provided by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai, to extract the essence.
"The flavour of natural vanilla has 300 components. It is good for health. When natural vanilla is used, the flavour will linger for at least three minutes. If the flavour is synthetic, it will disappear in seconds," he added.
Amul Wednesday formally launched its Vanilla Royale ice cream, which uses natural vanilla.
"From now on we will use only natural flavour in all vanilla ice creams. We are the first company to do this on a nationwide basis," said K. Suresh, branch manager of Amul in Kozhikode.